The Philadelphia Jazz song book is about to become real

 Jazz trumpeter Duane Eubanks. (Courtesy of Duane Eubanks)

Jazz trumpeter Duane Eubanks. (Courtesy of Duane Eubanks)

A Philadelphia jazz musician support organization, Jazz Bridge, is releasing a book of jazz songs composed by local musicians.

The Philadelphia Real Book is meant to be a reference for gigging musicians, with only chord changes and the basic melody. For the rest of the tune, the player is expected to wing it.

These used to be called Fake Books – bound compilations of lead sheets for jazz standards. They were helpful for working musicians who might be called upon to play a tune they didn’t know, so they could “fake” their way through it.

Those books were only available underground – passed from musician to musician – because nobody bothered to secure copywrite permission, until the 1970s when legitimate publishers came out with Real Books.

“This became the canon of the jazz community that spread around the world,” said Suzanne Cloud, executive director of Jazz Bridge. “Any jazz musician who goes into a club in Italy or Greece or Russia or wherever, they don’t have to speak the language – they just have to say, ‘Stella By Starlight in G,’ and everyone can play the tune because it was in the Real Book.”

Nobody has published a Real Book based on the music of a particular city, until now. The Philadelphia Real Book goes deeper than standards.

“Most of the Philly musicians don’t get the space or venue to play as much original music as they should. Because when people want jazz they usually want the standards they know. Green Dolphin Street, Love is Here To Stay. Which is fine,” said Cloud. “But that doesn’t leave much room for original music, which our region has a lot of and a lot if it is damn good.”

Cloud said so many musicians submitted songs that the Philadelphia Real Book had to be split into two volumes, the first of which will be released this week. Composers range from relative unknowns to heavy-hitters, like Grammy-winning bassist Christian McBride, guitarist Pat Martino, Monette Sudler, and trumpeter Duane Eubanks who said a local Real Book is a great way for musicians to learn music by their peers.

“It’s a great way for musicians to commune and play each other’s music, and just expand in general in our knowledge and general presentation of the music,” said Eubanks in a video produced by Jazz Bridge. “It’s a great idea.”

A series of concerts have been planned for the release of the Philadelphia Real Book, through the next year. This Saturday at the University of the Arts, Duane Eubanks will perform with his brother, trombonist Robin Eubanks, in a concert highlighting Philadelphia Jazz families.

Their more famous brother, Kevin Eubanks, former leader of the Tonight Show Band with Jay Leno, is not scheduled to be there.

The surviving members of the legendary Heath Brothers, Jimmy and Tootie, will also play.

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